Nature Spotting Challenge (In more ways than one)

Getting kids to go outside is generally not a challenge. Most children love to run and play in the open air, and most toddlers are pretty curious about the world around them. R is no different. He loves to be in the garden or the park, and he gets so excited when he spots something new and interesting. 

It’s just a little less common. As R is partially sighted, pointing out wildlife, often gone in a flash, or small insects and plants can be a struggle. The same is true of giving him a check-list of wildlife to find. With this in mind, I took him out on our version of the Nature Spotting Challenge, and tried to find some close-up nature for him to get acquainted with. Too much stimulation can be overwhelming for him, so we stretched it out over a week or so!

Heading to the park, we discovered that there are loads of ways to discover nature without being able to see perfectly. Using our bodies to climb and feel different textures and shapes was a great way to find out about the great outdoors. R climbed on a gigantic tree trunk and used his hands to feel all the ridges and bumps. The Oak trees have so much character and must be hundreds of years old.

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We took off our shoes and socks and walked over the grass, and R pointed out daisies and buttercups, all of which stand out really beautifully against the green grass. I sat him down and showed him the different feels of moss and clover compared with grass. 

R went up close to see the touch and smells of the bushes, and told me it smelt ‘delicious!’ 
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As our nature week continued, when he couldn’t quite reach to get as close as he would like, we had a handy stepladder available! 

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Animals can be fast moving and difficult to spot in their natural environment, so we decided to head to the farm, so we could get a closer look. R absolutely loved seeing and feeding the goats, and we saw some baby chicks being born! 

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And we did see SOME animals out in the wild… the slow ones! Can you spot the snail we found?
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Our checklist also included lots of things that we can hear. We heard ducks and woodpeckers, as well as crickets and herons, and other natural sounds such as streams and even thunder this week. We were even *lucky* enough to feel the rain when we weren’t expecting it at all!

By thinking outside of the box, our family was able to take part in this amazing Center Parcs challenge, and introduce our son to the natural world in a way that he could really appreciate and understand. Now to go make some jam with our strawberry pickings! 

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A Perfect Afternoon

There were noises all around them, but they were only noticed with the briefest moments of attention. A child running and laughing, an old couple deep in conversation, a dog or two barking and jumping in the distance.

The couple walked together. Sometimes hand in hand, sometimes a few inches apart, helping each other push the stroller when the road got bumpy or steep to climb. They talked, constantly, ravenously, sharing the appetizers and main courses of each other’s days since they last had time to simply speak without distraction. Sometimes it’s like that; a moment in time opens up where you can talk on a deeper plane than all the hundreds of conversations preceding it. The sweet desserts and after dinner treats of banter and private jokes made the afternoon glare of the travelling sun seem not too bright to focus and pushed the noise and interference of the busy park to simply fade into the background.

At points, they turned to the little person who was never out of thought, and almost never out of sight. He was watching the world go by with such intent and interest, that you’d be forgiven for thinking he was controlling the elements with his very gaze. Never taking his tiny eyes off the world around him, so as not to miss a second of the changing afternoon, he babbled and motioned and smiled towards his parents, silently thanking them for the security and love for which he didn’t know any different.

They lifted him from his seat, and each took a tiny hand in theirs, letting him lead the way as fast as he could go, and as slowly as they could manage. Watching him navigate the world around him for one of the first times, putting pressure onto the earth and feeling it push back, grinning with sheer joy at what he could achieve, the couple smiled at each other in disbelief, at the miraculous and god-like capacity of simple love.

The afternoon got colder, and the trees on either side of the path changed. They had been shade from the bright rays of the late day sun, and they were now rustling protection from the early evening wind. The boy was tired, and grateful to be carried across the uneven grass, where only time would teach him how to walk steadily. The couple were happy to be silent, people watching, swapping quiet thoughts with looks and touches of hands and shoulders; gratefully aware that they were sharing something both rare and special.

They walked back through the trees, hand in hand, feeling the cool air lighten the very steps they were taking, watching the sun streak across the sky, like a child sponge painting impatiently, filling the page with innacurate colours and swirls of shape, yet somehow creating beauty with his lack of inhibition. They breathed in contentedly. It was a perfect afternoon.